February 10, 2010

Nash makes a splash at downtown concert

As published in The Erin Advocate

People look at me kinda funny when I tell them I'm a fan of folk music. Sometimes I think it is a look of pity for an old fart whose musical tastes got stuck in the '60s, which is of course totally untrue. More often they just have no clear idea of what folk music is.

Mainstream radio stations will not play even the best of it, since they do not believe there is a large enough audience, and even CBC Radio 2, which is sympathetic, steers more towards pop on its morning and afternoon commuter shows.

Folk has been known for centuries in Europe as music of the lower classes, played with simple instruments and passed on by tradition. In North America it now encompasses a wide range of acoustic instruments, avoiding high-tech production and often giving emphasis to thoughtful lyrics.

It is actually the lack of clear boundaries that endears the genre to many fans, who are willing to go out of their way to hear today's top performers. It is a special pleasure when one of them comes to your own town.

Jory Nash has six albums to his credit, is well-known at many Toronto clubs, gets airplay on CBC, plays events like the Hillside Festival in Guelph and takes his show on the road across North America. He was the main act at a January 29 concert held at the Paul Morin Gallery, sponsored by Erin Radio.

Julian Petti from Palgrave started the evening off with some strong, rhythmic guitar, and bluesy finger picking on songs like, Leave the Light On. You can check him out on myspace.com and see his Echo Bay recording sessions in Algonquin Park on YouTube.

A lively instrumental set was provided by WhirlyGig, a dance/celtic band from the Guelph area, based at Celtic College (riversidecelticcollege.ca). With Irene Shelton on piano, Carolyn Buck on fiddle, Jakob McCauley on bodhran and Eva McCauley on mandolin, fiddle and concertina, we were treated to a wide variety of jigs, reels and even polkas. Unfortunately, with about 65 people in attendance, there was no room to dance.

Jory Nash is an independent who labels his style as a mix of folk, acoustic, country, jazz, pop, blues, soul and storytelling. He plays the guitar, piano and five-string banjo. His fingerpicking style is confident and precise, without being flowery or overbearing.

From the second he presents himself, you get an upbeat feeling. His sound is happy and friendly – even when singing about the recession in It Don't Add Up. And although he has plenty of good songs of his own, he recognizes the appeal of covering old standards, like the jazzy Fly Me To The Moon, or Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears.

The audience was chatty as they sipped their wine and snacked on apple bread cheese from Spirit Tree Cidery in Caledon. But with a combination of funny stories, a light, soaring voice and a guitar style that was often spare and haunting, Nash ultimately had everyone's full attention. He had people laughing with Spaz Loves Weezie, singing along with My Girl, and thinking hard with Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come.

It is always worth the effort to seek out talented performers who have not yet struck it rich with commercial hits. They are never just coasting, and are not stuck on one style. They are willing to play in small towns, and are working hard to provide good entertainment. This was an excellent event, and here's hoping Erin has many more like it.

Here are a few more websites to check in your spare time: myspace.com/jorynash; jorynash.com; and maplemusic.com.